In a first, two-year-old gets artificial windpipe implant

Zee Media Bureau

Peoria, Illinois: In a medical breakthrough, doctors at a hospital in Illinois implanted an artificial trachea into a two-and-half-year-old Korean toddler, Hannah Warren, born without a windpipe.

The artificial windpipe made from plastic fibers and stem cells extracted from the child`s hip bone was implanted on April 9 by an international group of doctors led by Dr Paolo Macchiarini, a specialist in the field of regenerative medicine, in a nine-hour long procedure at Children`s Hospital of Illinois.

Macchiarini, the director of the Advanced Center for Translational Regenerative Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, said the transplant crosses frontiers by eliminating the need for a human donor and a lifetime of immunosuppressant drugs.

Though windpipe transplant has been performed several times in adults, this was for the first time that a tissue-engineered trachea devoid of any donor cells was implanted in a child.

Hannah Warren was born with tracheal agenesis - a rare and usually fatal birth defect. Born in 2010 in South Korea the child spent the first two-and-a-half years of her life in neonatal intensive care unit in a hospital in Seoul, unable to breathe, swallow, eat or drink on her own.

Early signs indicate the windpipe is working, Hannah`s doctors announced on Tuesday. The child is breathing largely on her own, although through a hole in her neck, not through her mouth yet, a pediatric surgeon at the hospital said.

Only about one in 50,000 children worldwide are born with a windpipe defect or without one and so far no child has lived past 6 with the ailment.